Poor Filipino families have to contend living in a 6.4 square meter space, the size of a billiard table, while the wealthy comfortably stay in their 38.5 square meter homes.
This was stressed by Economist-Congressman Stella Luz Quimbo, who was the guest speaker, at the Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines (OSHDP) Housing Series Virtual Talks, as she tackled the wide-ranging ramifications on individuals who cannot afford to own a house, much worse for the homeless.
“Our average housing space is as low as 6.4 square meters, the size of a billiard table, for poorest families compared to 38.5 for the richest families. So, the message is simple and clear, but landing on deaf ears for those in the policy making space,” said the UP economic teacher and lawmaker citing family data income and expenditure survey.
Beyond this social divide is the huge backlog in housing, which the government estimated at 1.2 million units in 2011 and over 2 million in 2016 alone amid a growing population, estimated at more than 7.7 million more Filipinos, and more people flocking into highly urbanized cities.
“The backlog is driven by factors other than population growth. This backlog appears to be the outcome not only of the failure to supply the need but also the failure to supply adequate financing,” she said.
In fact, she also noted data from the Philippine Statistics Authority which showed that home ownership in the country actually decreased from 68 percent in 2010 to 59.6 percent in 2017. A study also showed that Filipinos spend an average 11.2 percent on income spent to housing.
This means, she said, that while the country is growing economically, the percentage of Filipinos owning their own houses is declining and many are living in houses that are actually overcrowded.
SYMBOL OF SUCCESS
Owning a house is dream of every Filipino, a symbol of success.
“But if house ownership is on the decline, this means our economic growth is not inclusive,” she said citing data that showed the Philippine housing space is a lot lower than comparators Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
“These statistics are very alarming,” said Quimbo, who represents Marikina City’s 2nd Legislative District, as she called for the crafting of an urgent adequate housing space policy to improve quality of life.
Aside from being a basic need, Quimbo said that housing impacts education, health and future success of a child.
She cited a study that correlates house ownership to a poor child’s mental development. Home plays an important environment as a conducive place to study with electricity at night and provides psychological factors that come with living with family- owned home.
In the US, she said, studies showed that students who do not have homes perform lower in math and reading. In the Philippines, students without homes are more vulnerable to dangers and diseases.
“So, the provision to those in need can be considered a tool to improve a student environment and better chance to perform well and succeeding in their education,” she said.
Homelessness affects a child’s stability. Youth found to be homeless for 6 months are more likely to suffer developmental delays, poor health and morbidity.
“Housing affects one’s health and safety in the short run and success in the long run,” said Quimbo.
Thus, housing is usually a part of human capital development.
With the lingering global pandemic and the need for social distancing, Quimbo noted the urgency to craft policies that would make housing ownership more affordable.
“Housing is a good platform for economic stimulus,” said Quimbo, author of the ARISE Bill, an economic stimulus bill that served as the originator of the P165 billion Bayanihan 2 law.
According to Quimbo, housing is a critical component in the Philippine economic recovery from the debilitating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Besides, Quimbo cited the wide economic multiplier effect the sector provides. For every P3.44 spent in housing will create more than 3 times to the economy.
“So, it is a very impactful economic stimulus to GDP and jobs creation,” she added.
As they say, charity begins at home. “Begin with adequate housing space. A child can dream of a brighter future especially if she is secure in his own home,” she concluded.